Image:Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs a hearing on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
By Alex Dobuzinskis
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (Reuters) – A California judge on Wednesday agreed to postpone a sworn deposition of comedian Bill Cosby in a civil lawsuit accusing the entertainer of sexual assault in order to avoid interfering with a criminal case against him in Pennsylvania.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Kaplan said the delay was designed to permit Cosby to present testimony in his own defence in the civil case without fear of revealing anything that could be used against him in the criminal proceedings in Pennsylvania.
Kaplan also put on hold any further deposition of Judy Huth, who brought the civil lawsuit alleging that Cosby molested her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles when she was 15 after plying her with alcohol.
Her complaint accuses him of putting his hand down her pants and then “taking her hand in his hand and performing a sex act on himself without her consent.”
“I do think it’s fair to stay discovery as to both parties,” Kaplan said at a hearing in the coastal town of Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.
Cosby, 78, who is free on bail in the Pennsylvania case, had been scheduled to submit to questioning under oath from Huth’s attorney, Gloria Allred, on April 7.
The judge allowed depositions of other witnesses in the case to proceed, and Allred said she planned to take a sworn statement from Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.
More than 50 women have come forward over the past two years to accuse Cosby of rape and other sexual misconduct. In most instances the claims involve alleged assaults that occurred a decade ago or more, exceeding the statute of limitations for legal action.
The accusations have shocked Cosby’s fans and crushed his wholesome, family-man image. Various television projects and live shows were cancelled as the allegations mounted. Cosby also stepped down from the board of trustees at his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia, and there have been calls to revoke his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Cosby has acknowledged marital infidelity on his part but has denied engaging in non-consensual sexual behaviour.
The majority of civil cases facing Cosby accuse him of defamation, with his accusers claiming they were smeared by his public assertions that their accusations were fabricated.
Huth filed her suit under a California law allowing victims of childhood abuse to sue beyond the statute of limitations if, within the last three years, they have realized they suffered from psychological damage that had previously been repressed.
Cosby’s attorneys argued that was not the case for Huth because “she tried to sell her story to the tabloids nearly a decade ago,” and the case should be dismissed. The judge has set an April 14 hearing to consider those arguments.
The Pennsylvania case, the only one to have led to criminal charges against Cosby, centres on the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at Temple. His lawyers have sought dismissal of the case.
Kaplan indicated he might revisit his decision to delay any deposition of Cosby or Huth, if the criminal case in Pennsylvania drags on, and expressed hope a jury trial in Huth’s lawsuit would be held next year.
Earlier this week, Cosby lost his bid to throw out a defamation lawsuit against himself and his former lawyer brought by supermodel Janice Dickinson, clearing the way for a trial.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Sara Catania and Jonathan Oatis)
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